We’re Not Married. Should We Go To Counseling?

By Z Cordero

You and your partner or one of your romantic partners are going through a rough patch. You feel like bringing in a third party can help, but you’re unsure about counseling because you are not married. Should you go to therapy? The short answer is: yes. The longer answer is that conflict will arise within relationships at every stage. Conflict is normal, but sometimes we struggle to have healthy conflict with our loved ones. When that is the case, therapy can help.

Being proactive is beneficial. Counseling can provide the tools to “fight fair.”

John Gottman, Ph.D., a relationship therapy pioneer and co-founder of the Gottman Method discovered that successful relationships have a 5:1 ratio of positivity versus negativity in conflict meaning that most successful romantic relationships have five positive moments to one negative moment during a fight.

But relationship counseling isn’t just about conflict.

Although many couples seek counseling to learn to better deal with conflict as a team, there are other reasons to consider reaching out to a therapist. Some folks reach out for support within navigating diverse relationship orientations like polyamory or open relationships. Other times people look for relationship therapists to explore intimacy issues, family planning options, or evolving gender and sexuality. The list continues!

Preparing for Relationship Counseling:

You and your partner have decided to go to counseling together. Now it’s time to find a therapist. If you’re unsure of what to look for, here are some aspects to consider:
Cultural considerations: can this therapist be sensitive to you and your partners’ identities (race, ethnicity, age, ability, sexuality, relationship orientation) or other communities you are a member of? Do you want to have shared identities with your therapist? Will that help or hinder the therapist-client relationship?
Scheduling: What time will you and your partner(s) be consistently available for therapy? Be realistic, can you make this time work every week? Next, are you interested in telehealth or in-person therapy?
Modalities: Are there specific modalities you want your therapist to employ? Or is there a treatment orientation you would like your therapist to have expertise in? Examples include The Gottman Method, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, and Narrative Therapy.
Payment: Are you planning to use insurance or pay out-of-pocket? What is your budget?
Check out the resources. The most common resource to seek therapists is Psychology Today.

After you have discussed your therapist non-negotiables with your partner, it is time to schedule consultations. The goal here is to find a therapist that is the best fit for you and your partner. A therapist might be great, but not the right fit. Additionally, many therapists like us at Park Avenue Psychotherapy offer free consultations.

Before your appointment: Talk to your significant other about goals. What do you want to get out of relationship therapy as a unit and individually? What are your expectations of each other during sessions? Remember that you and your partner are in this together. With that said, prepare to be uncomfortable. You will be required to be vulnerable and share details about your relationship and yourselves that you haven’t likely been asked to share before.

Conclusion

Relationship therapy can be beneficial for a large range of relationship issues. Additionally, with the added stressors of the COVID-19 pandemic, many relationships undertook a plethora of stressors that have caused tension in new and long-term relationships. Therapy can prove to be beneficial at many stages of a relationship. If you’re on the fence about relationship therapy due to marital status, consider that being proactive will help you to be successful partners in the future.